FIRST REVIEW – IF I STAY by Gayle Forman – I will preface my review by saying I understand that I am not the intended audience for this book. I am no longer a “young” adult. I do read a lot of YA books, and I did read this one. Lately I have been sorely disappointed in the genre, and I am wondering if it’s time for me to stop reading YA. This novel was another one that just didn’t work for me. I felt let down by the author who made the parents into hip caricatures of what real parents should have been. I did research on the author, thinking perhaps she was young and maybe childless herself, but she’s not. She’s 44 and has 2 daughters. I’m not sure what she was thinking when she wrote the so-called adults in this book, but I think she was way off the mark.
In If I Stay by Gayle Forman we meet Mia Hall. Mia is a 17 year old serious student who plays the cello. She’s a little awkward and doesn’t have many friends. Mia lives in the Pacific Northwest (Oregon) where it rains all the time. Is this starting to sound familiar to you? Mia has a boyfriend who plays in a rock band. He’s hip and handsome, and she can’t understand why he’d be interested in her. Someone online likened Mia to Bella Swan, and the novels do have their similarities – we just have musicians instead of vampires. Twilight came out in 2005; this book came out in 2009 so it is possible this book borrows a little bit from Twilight.
On a rare snowy day school is closed and Mia and her Mom, Dad and brother go for a car ride. There is a horrific accident and Mia’s parents are killed instantly. For most of the book we are left wondering about Mia’s brother’s fate. Mia herself lies in a coma but is having an out of body experience and can’t decide whether she wants to live or die.
This is a difficult book to review. It’s difficult because I can’t say too much without giving away the ending. There were a number of things I did not like about this book (besides Mia’s parents). I did not like that most of the story is told in flashbacks. It kept going off on tangents and giving backstory, and I just wanted it to get on with the present. Mia is lying unresponsive in ICU. Her spirit (?) is walking around, observing and trying to interact with others, but no one can sense that she is there. I find it confusing that if I’m being asked to believe that people’s spirits or essences can walk about like that that Mia doesn’t bump into someone else in the same in-between (“should I live” or “should I die”) state – especially in an ICU. I also had a hard time buying into the Mia-Adam relationship. They were too different. Music was their only common thread. She hates his world and his performances and is uncomfortable even watching him perform. He willingly sits through endless recitals and performances for her. He is the more giving of the two. As I’ve already stated, I hated her parents. Even hip/cool parents wouldn’t let a 17 year old daughter’s boyfriend do sleep-overs at their house. I cringed when I read that she “hogged the covers”. Really? She’s a minor. What the heck is up with her parents? I found it disturbing that her parents would condone that type of behavior and welcome this guy into their home with open arms and think he is just groovy-great because Mia’s Daddy also used to be in a punk band. Yippee-skippy. I was not impressed.
I did not like much about this book. It was relatively short, but it felt to me that it took forever to end. I wanted to skip to the end to see how it was going to come out. Mia would go into another jaunt through the past, and I would just want her to decide whether to live or die and get on with it already. I kept going because I hoped it would get better. I downloaded the sequel – Where She Went. It’s written from Adam’s point of view. I can tell already that Adam is no longer as likable as he was in the first book. He’s turned into a whiny, self-obsessed mess like Mia was in the first book. I don’t believe I’ll be reading anything else by Ms. Forman if I manage to finish the second book.
I read the beginning and the end. I wasn’t interested enough to read the middle.
This book continues on with the If I Stay story. It’s told from Adam’s viewpoint, and we have to struggle through his grief, sorrow and self-pity.
It does have a happy ending, but I wasn’t interested in staying with Adam who’s turned into a pill-popping mess of a person. He’s finally gotten what he wanted in terms of his music career, but he implodes and can barely get through each day. I got tired of him real fast and put the book down. I didn’t care if his ending was happy or not.
Here’s the second book I gave up on this weekend. In Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty we meet a whole bunch of people that I cared very little about. There was no one character in the story who stood out or was interesting enough to follow.
The book follows a group of kindergarten parents. There’s been a murder committed at the beginning of the book, but Ms. Moriarty decides not to share the victim’s name with her readers. The story is told in flashbacks and in snippets of police interviews with the various parents. As I found with the two Gayle Forman books above, unraveling a tale through flashbacks doesn’t really appeal to me. I made it to page 82 in this one, skipped to the end and figured out who had died and who did it and then put the book aside.
I read somewhere that this book was supposed to be humorous. I guess I missed those parts. Ho-hum.